Category Archives: Wild Species

Rare Species: Ili Pika


For over two decades this little lagomorph was winning at the “hide” part of the game “hide and seek”! Until it was finally spotted again in 2014, after being thought to be [practically] extinct.

The Ili Pika (scientific name: Ochotona iliensis) is an eight-inch long rabbit and hare relative, and is one of the world’s most endangered animals. The census carried out in 2014 showed that less than 1,000 individuals of this tiny animal is believed to be left in the wild. That more endangered than the Giant Panda. Unfortunately, little more is known about this species – thought to be diurnal with some nocturnal activity.

First discovered by Li Weidong in 1983, this man has watched as the species he discovered has declined in number over the years, becoming endangered – with no one working to protect this species, or their habitat, their numbers may well keep decreasing. It was named after where Li first spotted the Pika, on the far west side of China’s Xinjiang province; the Ili Prefecture. They live in holes in the rocks, high up in the mountains – at heights of between 2,800-4,100 metres.

The cause of the reduction in the habitat of this little furry creature is unknown; however contributing factors may include the increasing population of people moving further into the habitat of the Pika, due to climate change – the reduction of snow at lower altitudes,  and causing a reduction in grazing areas. Whatever the cause, there is no conservation system in place currently; however the rediscovery of this species has boosted them into the media since 2014, raising awareness.

 


All images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


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Rare Species: Hirola


The hirola (Beatragus hunteri) is also known as “Hunter’s Antelope” or “Hunter’s Hartebeest”,  and even “four-eyed antelope”.

The hirola is the only surviving species of the  Beatragus genus; a genus of antelope which there used to contain  many different species. If the hirola becomes extinct, it would mean not only the loss of a species, but also of the entire Beatragus genus of antelope. Due to this, the hirola is often referred to as a ‘living fossil’.

The species is so rare, that it is classed as critically endangered on the Endangered Species List. The next step down, is extinct in the wild and after that it’s completely extinct.

The hirola is a medium sized antelope, weighing (approximately) between 68-115 kg. They are a sandy brown colour, with a paler underside. The species has well developed horns in both genders; which are tall and ridged.  As hirola get older their  horns accumulate more ridges, and their coat darkens to a slate grey. The hirola have what’s referred to a white ‘spectacles’ – white rings around the eyes , joined by a line across the head. The white facial markings also surround scent glands under the eyes, which is why the hirola is often called the “four-eyed antelope”.

Adult hirola

Lifespan in the wild is unknown, however the average captive lifespan is ten years. The hirola is now thought to be restricted in distribution to the south-eastern coast of Kenya, south of the Somalian border.

It is estimated that the population size is between 600 and 2,000 individuals in the wild; however the actual number is thought to be closer to 600.
The main threats to the survival of the hirola today include disease, poaching, predation, competition with domestic livestock, habitat loss,  and drought. The species has been legally protected from hunting in Kenya since 1971 and in Somalia since 1977; unfortunately the enforcement of this law is poor and poaching is still a large threat.
In my opinion, we as a species (humans) need to protect what animals that still survive on the earth, before following generations are left with none. The number of animal species on the planet has declined majorly over generations; largely due to our selfishness.

All images are open source, Google images, or my own.


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Want To Know More? Polar Bear


During this (supposedly) snowy season, I thought I’d do a post in relation to an animal that deals with frosty  conditions a lot chillier than we do! So here is some information you may not have known… about Polar bears!

Scientific name, Ursus maritimus, translates to ‘sea bear’. Polar bears are the world’s largest land-based carnivores; however most of their lives are spent around ice and (in) water. They’re at particular risk from their Arctic, icy habitat melting; without the ice there is nowhere for the bears.

Polar bears are listed as Threatened on the endangered species list; with a population of 22,000-31,000 in the wild.

Polar Bear

Polar bears live in five places across the world: Alaska (USA), Canada, Russia, Greenland, and Norway. Polar bears do not live in Antarctica, but Penguins do. Have you ever heard the joke: (Q) Why don’t Polar Bears eat penguins? (A) Because they can’t get the wrapper off (referring to the chocolate biscuit)! – Well know you know the real reason; they live nowhere near each other!

Adult Polar bears can measure over 6ft in length, and weigh over 800lbs. They are usually between 1.8-2m in height, with females being larger. The large size and weight is what makes this species the largest living carnivores on land! They live on average, approximately, 18 years – however in captivity have been known to live 30+ years.

These bears have thick, water resistant, insulating, white fur – however their skin underneath is black. The black skin helps to absorb and retain heat, to keep the animal warm. They have small ears and tail, and large, powerful paws equipped with razor-sharp claws. They have webbing in between their toes, to help them swim. Polare bears are amazing swimmers, and have even been spotted 100km away from shore!

Their nose has an incredible sense of smell, and these animals can smell prey from 15km away – and through the ice! Their prey; mainly seals. Polar bears have been known to resort to cannibalism if desperate enough.

Polar bears do not hibernate; however females will live in a den, burrowed under the snow, to gestate and give birth. During this time, the female will live off her fat reserves, and will not emerge again until the cubs are old enough. Polar bears typically give birth to two cubs; although they can have anywhere from one-three cubs at a time. Cubs stay with their mother for two years, learning from her, before venturing out on their own.

Young, Adult Polar Bear

All images are open source, Google images.


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National Shamu Day – 26 September 2016


The performing Orca’s at Sea World are all given the stage name Shamu. The first Shamu was a female Orca (Killer Whale) captured in October, 1965; appearing in the San Diego Sea World. She died in August, 1971 – after a mere 6 years in captivity. Captured by and for Griffin’s Seattle Public Aquarium, she was named Shamu and was to live with three other Orca’s captured from the wild. However, she didn’t get on with the other Orca’s and, as such, was sold to Sea World in December, 1965.

"Shamu" - open source image
“Shamu” – open source image

Orca’s are the largest species of dolphin (despite being known as Killer Whale’s). Like all dolphins, Orca’s form strong bonds within their pod (group of Orca’s), which is usually made up of family members. They become distressed when separated as they are very social.

I feel that the point of posting this today is not to celebrate the Shamu show, or the use of Orca’s for entertainment by Sea World and other companies (over the years); but rather to raise awareness of the conditions this wild species is subjected to due to human selfishness.

We (humans) have taken this wild mammal out of the sea, away from family/ pod, and destroyed any hope of a normal life for the animal – and we have done this over and over again.  We have then bred captive Orca’s; resulting in still-born or very short-lived calves for the first several attempts. All of this was done at the expense of the species, with no consideration for them or the family/ pod left behind; for our own selfish gain. And we’re still doing it; still exploiting this wild species for our own benefit. I believe this needs to stop.

Shamu: Tilikum - open source image
“Shamu” – open source image

Spare a thought today for these poor animals in less than satisfactory, captive conditions; unable to perform natural behaviour and suffering poor health (such as bent dorsal fin) due to these conditions – as this is what they are experiencing right now as you read this. Also spare a thought for the pods which lost a member when humans took Orca’s from the wild originally; Orca’s (as with other dolphins) have been know to grieve for the loss or separation of group/ family members.

Aside from the Orca’s themselves; think of the number of unnecessary injuries and deaths of trainers and other people caused by these wild animals in captivity, and the families that suffered the loss.

These majestic creatures belong in the ocean; not a tiny pool doing tricks.

Wild Orca Pod - open source image
Wild Orca Pod – open source image

To see my previous Shamu post from earlier in the year, which specifically focuses on the Orca named Tilikum (one of the Shamu Orca’s at Sea World), please click here .

World Elephant Day: 12 August 2016


#WorldElephantDay on social media to spread awareness (www.worldelephantday.org).

Common Elephant Facts:

  • It is thought that there used to be approximately 350 different species of elephant on the planet, at one time.
  • Today there are only two species left; the Asian elephant, and the African elephant .
  • Wild lifespan of 60-70 years; captive lifespan of below 40 years.
  • Gestation (pregnancy): 22 months.
  • Live together in (familial) herds of 10-100 elephants, led by the matriarch.
  • Young males will leave the family heard, and often form smaller bachelor groups, once sexual maturity is reached.
  • Known to visit ‘elephant graveyards’ and mourn the death of herd members.
  • Their trunk is used like a finger/hand – to grab things, such as food or to move obstacles out of their way; as well as sometimes being used to hold onto the tail of the elephant in front during walkies!
African_elephant_(Loxodonta_africana)_reaching_up_1
African Elephant – using trunk to get food (Open Source Google Image)

Asian Elephant Facts:

  • also known as the Indian elephant.
  • smaller in size than the African, weighing up to 5 tonnes, reaching 6.4 metres in length, and 3 metres in height.
  • small ears, straight at the bottom.
  • only males have tusks; not all males get tusks.
  • five toes on the front feet; four toes on the back feet.
  • estimated to be less than 50,000 remaining in the wild – classification: endangered.
Asian Elephant (Open Source Google Image)
Asian Elephant (Open Source Google Image)

African elephants:

  • larger of the two elephant species, weighing up to 6 tonnes, reaching 7.5 metres in length, and 3.3 metres in height.
  • large, round edged ears; used as fans in the heat (plus excess heat is released from the large surface area).
  • of the African, there are two subspecies; bush or savanna and forest.
  • both males and females have tusks.
  • African elephants are left or right-tusked (like we are left or right-handed); the dominant tusk is often smaller due to wear and tear.
  • five front toes; three hind toes.
  • estimated to be 470,000 remaining in the wild – classification: vulnerable.
African Elephant (Open Source Google Image)
African Elephant (Open Source Google Image)

Shamu: Tilikum


I have started a series of posts covering the basics of an A-Z of cat breeds; however, I am taking time out to write this post to cover quite a sad and angering (in my opinion) topic.

Please click on the turquoise words/ phrases for links to videos, images and definitions. The links are external sources, and not my own material. 

You may have seen various posts recently reporting that one of the Orca’s that bears the show name Shamu and performs at SeaWorld, has gotten ill recently and it’s looking like it’s close to the end for him. Tilikum is one of several Orca’s that perform as Shamu; he is the same Shamu that has killed several people, including several of his trainers.

If you have seen the film documentary Blackfish then you will know a lot of what this post is saying; if not, I would highly recommend it – for your own education if nothing more – but be prepared to be moved (grab the tissues if you are prone to tears when watching emotional films).

Tilikum was separated from his pod (group of Orca’s) and from his mother at two years of age, by some men in boats. He was taken from the wild, the water, his mother, his pod; in November of 1983 off the coast of Iceland. Orca’s are the largest species of dolphin (despite being known as Killer Whale’s), and like all dolphins are very familial – forming strong bonds within the pod, which is usually made up of family members. They get distressed when separated and are very social. Tilikum was robbed of this at two years old; not to mention the distress this will have caused his mother and the rest of his pod.

He was housed in a small pool in an Icelandic zoo for close to one year, awaiting a transfer to a marine park. This pool was so small that poor Tilikum could only float at the surface and swim in circles. Orca’s migrate vast distances throughout their lives, and travel hundreds of miles daily – having the whole ocean to explore! At only two years old Tilikum was robbed of not just his pod and socialisation; but also his space, freedom, and ability to perform natural behaviours.

Finally, Tilikum was transferred to a 35 ft deep (50 x 100 ft) pool at Sealand of the Pacific Park, Canada. He spent his time in this time pool, as an attraction in the Park. Sealand ‘trained’ Tilikum by withholding food (negative, punishment technique), and was often bullied by two adult female Orca’s also in captivity at Sealand – housed with Tilikum (who was bottom of the social hierarchy). Due to the aggressive behaviour from the older females, Tilikum was moved into the smaller, medical pool for his own safety.

In 1991 came the first death. Tilikum, along with the two females, drowned a part-time Sealand trainer. Twenty-one year old, Keltie Byrne, was a marine biology student. She slipped into the pool and the animals never let her leave. Dragging her away from the life-ring thrown to her, and keeping her submerged. Apparently, unbeknown to the staff, both females were pregnant at the time. The behaviour was protective in their conditions, and (as with other pregnant mammals) their hormones will have been changing with the pregnancies. The stress of captivity had led to the first human death by Tilikum. Never-the-less this was a great tragedy. Sealand closed shortly after and put Tilikum up for sale.
Nothing was done about Tilikum or his behaviour.

In 1992 Tilikum was purchased by, and transferred to SeaWorld. SeaWorld had purchased the largest, captive bull Orca for their breeding programme. Over 50% of the world’s captive Orca’s are fathered by Tilikum.

In the years that followed, at SeaWorld, Tilikum developed became more aggressive and there were more aggressive incidents involving people. He developed stereotypical behaviours in captivity, including gnawing the concrete sides and metal gates of his enclosure – wearing his teeth down.

In 1999 there was another death; Daniel P. Dukes. He had broken in to SeaWorld, eluded security, and ended up in Tilikums’ pool. Reports said that he drowned in the pool; however the body, when recovered and examined, was covered in teeth marks and showed that Daniel had sustained injuries from Tilikum (including missing some body parts). There was significant damage that it was not determined if he had drowned, and Tilikum had attacked the body afterwards; or if Tilikum had killed him. No drugs or alcohol were reported in Daniel’s system by the coroner. He is commonly considered the second death caused by Tilikum. Daniel P. Dukes was found in the morning, on the back of Tilikum, as he swam around his pool at the surface. Unfortunately, the true cause of his death is still unknown – or at least, still not public knowledge.
Nothing was done about Tilikum or his behaviour.

As if this wasn’t enough, in 2010  Dawn Brancheau was pulled, by Tilikum, either by her pony-tail or arm – there is discrepancy between eyewitness accounts – leading to investigations into the history of other Orca attacks – and dragged her into the pool. Tilikum proceeded to ‘play’ with her, throwing and thrashing her around, until she died. Dawn suffered many injuries from Tilikum, before he killed her. In August 2010, SeaWorld was fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for three safety violations, two directly related to Dawn’s death.
Tilikum was isolated in a tiny pool for a year, before being returned to performing in 2011.

Now, March 2016, poor Tilikum is fighting a bacterial lung infection. He is dying from this disease. This animal has suffered at the hand of mankind since age two, he is now thirty-five years old. The collapsed dorsal fin is extremely rare in wild Orca’s; it is a sign of stress, poor health and nutrition. His aggression went ignored, despite the deaths he was linked to. An aggressive dog will be neutered, a dog that bites will be euthanised – Tilikum was aggressive due to human intervention in his life, and his captivity. Tilikum was bought for breeding – and (whether possible or not) would not be neutered to reduce aggression as he then could not be used in SeaWrold’s breeding programme. He was not released back into the wild; after too long in captivity, he may not have survived if he was released back. He was not euthanised after causing the deaths of multiple people. He was not provided with a private, captive, suitable environment – away from tourists. He was given no help, no alternative.

He is a stunning, graceful animal who has suffered a cruel life. His aggression has not been addressed, save for the poor decision of isolating this social animal for a whole year, before bringing him back into performing.

It is looking like a tragic end to a tragic life, for Tilikum.

Shamu: Tilikum - open source image
Shamu: Tilikum – open source image

 

 

Reptile Awareness Day 21.10.15


Happy Reptile Awareness Day!

Reptiles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes; colours and textures; habitats and countries… Even within one species type the diversity is vast! All reptiles are ectothermic – this means they cannot generate their own heat; and must warm up using external heat sources, to enable them to move around and function. Alligators, Crocodiles, Caymans, Komodo Dragons and other large reptiles, are often shown on Nature Documentaries sat out in the sun to warm themselves up to start the day. The sun is the main source of heat for wild reptiles; as well as sitting on rocks and other surfaces that have been warmed by the sun. Reptiles kept as pets have various sources of heat on offer for their vivarium (tank) – heat mats and rocks are popular, however can be dangerous as the animal can get too hot and stick to these and overheat (often fatally). The best source of heat (in my opinion) are heat lamps, sectioned off from the animal, so that the animal cannot come into direct contact and harm itself.

Lizards come in many colours (many can change colour), different scale types, even legless! A lizard is defined differently from a snake because they have eyelids and (internal) ears. Snakes come in a variety of colours and scale types also; snakes do no have eyelids or legs or ears (internal or external). Snakes ‘hear’ through their jaw by feeling vibrations. Personally, from handling both legless lizards such as the Glass lizard and various snake species including the Corn snake;  I find a big difference between the two is how fluid and graceful the movements of a snake are – how they will curl around your arm and up your neck so smoothly, and how a legless lizard is very much the same in its’ movement as a lizard with legs – moving a bit less fluidly, it always made me think that the movements seem jerky on a legless lizard, but fitting to a lizard with legs. Don’t get me wrong, a legless lizard moves around perfectly well in its’ own way, as it was designed to do – but the movement between a snake, a legless lizard, and a legged lizard are varied and unique, and perfect in their own way.

Chameleons have feet uniquely shaped to grip trees and twigs perfectly; Geckos have ‘sticky’ or ‘sucky’ feet to grip a wide variety of surfaces, Bearded Dragons have long nails well adapted for clinging to surfaces, and for digging. Turtles – sea and land (aka tortoise) – move rather slowly in comparison to most reptiles when on land. Land turtles or tortoises have claws for digging, and legs for walking; Sea turtles move brilliantly in the water with flippers for swimming and gliding in the water, however are poor movers on land – despite this they manage to move onto beaches and dig nests every year for laying. Terrapins have feet in between the two – they have little claws on webbed feet; moving fairly equally on land and in water. Alligators and Crocodiles (and the like) move swiftly in the water, making it their home for most of the time.

There are many, many reptile species – feel free to contact me with any question about any species, and I will respond to the best of my knowledge.

Please enjoy below the images (either my own or Google Open Source) of various reptiles species.

Batman Day


Batman Day (open source image)
Batman Day (open source image)

It’s Batman Day! Now for those who know me, it’s no secret that I love Batman and the whole world of Gotham! The comics (in my opinion) are epic – DC I applaud you.

Batman (open source image)
Batman (open source image)

In the spirit of Batman Day, I am doing a short post on the creatures that inspired Bruce Wayne to become Batman – become what you fear… and what did Batman fear? – Bats!

Common Fruit Bat (open source image)
Common Fruit Bat (open source image)

Na na na na na na Bat-Facts!…

  • There are 18 residential species in the UK; 17 of which are known to be breeding.
  • Bats are not blind; however they do have very poor eyesight. They find food and find their way around by using echolocation – sending out calls and listening for the returning echo’s.
  • They are the only mammal capable of flight; with elongated fingers, joined by skin/ wing membrane.
  • There are almost 1,000 bat species worldwide.
  • 70% of bats are insectivores (eat insects) – which helps to control insect populations within their habitats.
  • Other bat species feed on fruits and/ or vegetables.
  • Other bat species are carnivorous feeding on birds, other small mammals, fish, amphibians, and lizards.
  • Vampire bats prefer the blood of animals (often livestock) to that of humans – they pierce the flesh and lap up the pooling blood; they don’t “suuuck your blooood!” (or inhabit Transylvania).
  • Bats cannot live in extreme desert or Arctic conditions.
  • A baby bat is called a ‘pup’. They are born and raised within a colony of females – no help from the males.
  • Some bats live in large groups; whilst other species are solitary.
  • There are bat species that will hibernate through the cold months, and others that will migrate to warmer climates.
  • The largest bat species is the Giant Flying Fox of Indonesia, with a wingspan of up to 6ft!
Giant Flying Fox (open source image)
Giant Flying Fox (open source image)

All images are open source, Google images – not my own.


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Shark Week 2015 (5th-11th July)


This week is Shark Week – from Sunday 5th July until Saturday 11th July, 2015. Personally, I think Sharks are magnificent creatures – however, there are few Shark species I’d like to get too close to!

What is a Shark?

A Shark is a type of fish. They have a cartilaginous skeleton, gills, scales, and predominant dorsal (back) and caudal (tail) fins. Sharks are primarily marine fish, however a number do inhabit freshwater, such as; the Bull Shark.

Bull Shark
Bull Shark
Feeding and Hunting

Generally, Sharks are carnivorous; they will eat fish, crustaceans, seals and dolphins (and other large mammals) – and will even eat other Sharks! These Shark species either rip/ tear their food, or will swallow it whole (if it’s small enough). Sharks do not chew their food, but rather swallow any chunks, ripped off, whole.

Some larger Shark species, such as; the Whale Shark, Basking Shark, and Megamouth Shark; will feed on plankton and small fish. These Shark species are filter feeders; and filter their food through their large mouths, and consume large amounts of small types of food.

Whale Shark
Whale Shark

Some Shark species hunt in packs, due to their social structure, such as; Lemon Sharks. However, most species hunt alone – but will tolerate the presence of other Sharks feeding if the food is plentiful; usually giving way to the largest to eat first.

Lemon Shark group
Lemon Shark group
Shark Species

There are over 400 species of sharks worldwide. From the smallest species, the Dwarf Lantern Shark, measuring just over 8 inches/ 21 cm; to the largest species, the Whale Shark, measuring over 12.5 metres/ 14.5 ft.

Some of the most aggressive Shark species include; the Tiger Shark, the Great White, the Bull Shark.

Tiger Shark
Tiger Shark

Sharks come in various shapes and sizes, amongst the diversity; some species have a more distinguished looks, such as; the Goblin Shark, the Cookie Cutter Shark, the Hammerhead Shark, the Australian Ghost Shark, the Saw Shark, the Angel Shark, and the Frilled Shark.

Goblin Shark
Goblin Shark

All images are open source, Google images – not my own.